Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Checking in, checking out

Perpetuating the cycle of rural cruelty

Happy belated New Year! I hope, despite the "morosité ambiante" as one email correspondent called it this week, that you are well and happy. I also hope you are not doing any silly January deprivation things. I have seen my numerous chins on the Christmas photos and it's a sobering sight, but this is no time to be trying to do anything about it. Fish and chips for dinner tonight, followed by these salted caramel marshmallows which are an obsession that has crept up on me. I don't even like marshmallows.

I have not been here (or on Twitter, Jesus, that is hard) because I am trying to finish the sodding book. It is a chilling journey of self-discovery (concentration span: 4 minutes; ability to maintain positive demeanour in face of adversity: nil, general go-getting creativity: absent) on which I will not bring you because it is super boring as my long-suffering friends can confirm.

But briefly, an uneventful update:

1. We had a lovely Christmas and New Year in my Native Lands, barring two strops from me - relating to salmon and crackers respectively, because not sweating the small stuff regrettably forms no part of my life philosophy - and one from L, much more reasonably, because we made him climb a mountain with a filthy cold.

There's a mountain back there but you can't see it for weather. Look, also, how delighted the dog is to be out in the fresh air. He exudes wellbeing and contentment, even though he is wearing his handsome new 1980s geography teacher roll neck coat.

2. I actually came back bursting with resolve and positivity (no, truly): more of this! Less of that! But we drove back into a howling tempest which has continued unabated for ten days and my good intentions seem to have been gradually dissolving with each inch of rain. By the end of last week I was hunched in a semi-foetal ball with a family sized Dairy Milk crammed in my mouth, and a smartphone in my hand listlessly refreshing Twitter and muttering "I hate everyone".

I am trying to think if there are any resolutions I wanted to make back in those glorious days when such things seemed possible which I can still stick to in the cold light ("light") of mid-January Brussels. I think they are: see more humans to whom I am not related and look less like a tramp. This latter I intend to effect by wearing more of my existing clothes and not just grubby shapeless Gap trousers and a revolving cast of grey jumpers. I am writing this in two layers of grey jumper and the shapeless Gap trousers but I have two - two! - social engagements lined up in the next week. Baby steps, eh. I haven't resolved to stop picking at my dry lips, thankfully, because that appears to be entirely beyond me.

3.  I read many things over Christmas, which I have added to the Reading page and it was delicious. I will make a new Reading page for 2015 soon because the current one is too big. 2014 was a great year for reading for me, of which my two absolute favourites were H is for Hawk, which deserves every one of its many prizes and made my chest hurt it is so vivid and Other People's Countries for conjuring up a forgotten corner of Belgium with precision and humour and beauty.

4. Since we returned, little has happened,  though the boys and I did manage to go on a trip to the relatively new Brussels cat café, which was predictably insane and chaotic, with four cats huddled around a storage heater, five kinds of fruit wine and no juice and all the furniture piled on the tables. A skinny tom cat fixated upon a 2-year-old customer's slice of chocolate cake and kept jumping on the table/her face/the cake. Despite having their wrists lacerated by the smallest and most aggressive cat, the boys were entirely delighted with the whole thing and are keen to go back at the earliest opportunity.

Cat sticking its arse in my face, plus token bottles of hand sanitiser. 

5. My younger son's first foray into consumer affairs (he wrote to Milka complaining about a packet of cow shaped biscuits, including the immortally French phrase "la texture n'était pas superbe") has borne limited fruit in the form of the following wonderfully flowery letter:

and €6 worth of vouchers. We were more hoping for the purple Milka cow in person with a giant purple lorry full of chocolate treats, but it was probably busy sucking the goodness out of Creme Eggs, so I suppose this will have to do.

This made for a brief respite from Rubik's and other cubes which currently take up 85% of his large and secretive brain. Many videos must be watched each day and algorithms tested and specialist shops visited and stranger and stranger things purchased. Earlier this week he made his own miniature cube out of Lego, specially scanned logos and nail varnish, which was extra-perplexing. Our evenings are punctuated with the repetitive clicking noise of a well lubricated Cube (thanks to a lengthy and informative video entitled "how to lube your Cube") being fiddled with endlessly. Where will it all end?

6. My sister has turned THIRTY dear lord. Prog Rock's enviable gifts to her: a second-hand pressure cooker and a pair of waterproof trousers, which must place highly on the list of crap 30th birthday presents. She seemed delighted.

I told you it was boring.

Back to the word gulag. I will try and reappear occasionally.

What of you? Are you surviving January and if so how? What was the best thing you read last year?